This was the Yankees’ bullpen as advertised.
The relief corps that drew preseason acclaim for having the potential to be one of the best ever had not started the season that way, but Saturday was a step in the right direction.
Aroldis Chapman flashed triple digits in the ninth. Zack Britton secured a shutdown eighth. And as a wild card, in between starts, Domingo German provided a sturdy bridge to the Yankees’ late-inning weapons.
It all came together for a 4-0 victory over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon in The Bronx, with the bullpen’s four no-hit innings backing up CC Sabathia’s sterling season debut.
“That’s kind of what the older guys have been trying to [tell] the younger guys: This too shall pass, the struggles and stuff like that,” Britton said. “I didn’t feel like there was any more pressure to go in there and do the job.”
Chapman, who had not pitched since April 6 in Baltimore, entered the game having averaged 96.6 mph on his fastball (per Brooks Baseball) in five appearances, with a maximum velocity of 99.1 mph. He reached triple digits on four fastballs Saturday, all of them for strikes, and topped out at 100.7 mph while averaging 100.2 mph.
The result was a nine-pitch ninth inning, with one strikeout coming on a nasty slider to Leury Garcia.
“To see him come in and not only throwing hard and you see the stuff, but just the command he had and the ability to flip in the slider as well,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Britton handled the eighth inning with ease, retiring the side in order on nine pitches with a strikeout. The lefty had given up three runs over his last two outings, but Saturday was “about as crisp as we’ve seen him,” Boone said.
“I feel like my stuff is back to where it was pre-injury,” said Britton, more than a year removed from Achilles tendon surgery. “It’s just a matter of being consistent. … Any time I get in the game, just attack the strike zone like I did today.”
The lone baserunner for the White Sox against the Yankees’ bullpen came on a Tyler Wade throwing error in the seventh inning. But German hardly flinched, striking out the next batter, his fourth in two innings, to get the Yankees back to the plate, where they took the lead in the bottom of the inning.
German has been one of the Yankees’ best starters, allowing two earned runs over 11 innings, but had his next start bumped back to Thursday. That made him available out of the bullpen Saturday to pitch the sixth and seventh innings as he continued to thrive.
“What was impressive about him was his feel for his secondary pitches right away,” Boone said. “He came in spinning it, had a good changeup and followed up CC. He was really pitch efficient, in complete command.”